Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Letters From a Patchwork Quilt by Clare Flynn - #review

In 1875 England, a young man, Jack Brennan, from a large and impoverished Catholic family refuses to be pushed into the priesthood and runs away to fulfil his dream of becoming a teacher.

Jack falls in love with Eliza Hewlett, but his dreams and plans are thwarted when his landlord’s daughter, Mary Ellen MacBride, falsely accuses him of fathering the child she is expecting.

Rather than be forced to marry his accuser, Jack decides to run away to America with Eliza. Just as they are about to sail, Jack is arrested and dragged from the ship, leaving Eliza alone en route to New York with just a few shillings in her pocket.



Jack and Eliza could not catch a break.  It's hard enough for two people who are essentially alone in the world to find happiness without 'everyone and his dog' being arrayed against them.  It's hard enough for people not of the 'upper class' to find happiness without the wealthy and the church establishment acting against them.  I would not want to be in the 'instigator's' shoes when karma catches up with them!  However, I would not mind having a ringside seat to that comeuppance!

It is a testament to their strength that Jack and Eliza take the crappy hands that life has dealt them and make it work for them.  If there ever was a life situation meant for the 'Serenity Prayer' this is it!

I think many people will be able to identify with this pair of star-crossed lovers.  Our lives rarely turn out 100% the way we plan them, or we would like them to be.  I know mine hasn't.  I'm not a famous actress or writer.  The house in which I live looks nothing like any of the various plans I drew up when I was younger.  But the life and the family I have now is not one I would trade for any of the dreams I had growing up.

After Ms. Flynn elaborated on the title in the first chapter, I was a little confused that the quilt was not touched upon again until halfway through the book.  I would have liked to have seen a little more reference to the quilt and the letters ... more consistently?

Nonetheless, Letters from a Patchwork Quilt was a wonderful story.  I had a lot of empathy for the characters Eliza and Jack.  I cheered and mourned with them, and got angered at the injustices dealt to them in their lives.  Those of us in the 99% can identify with Eliza and Jack.  Maybe we're not the youngest, most attractive or wealthiest, but we have worthwhile lives deserving of respect.

If Ms. Flynn's other novels do for Australia and India in the early decades of the 20th century what Letters does for England and the United States, I will be packing my bags and traveling far from home very soon!


Clare Flynn is also the author of A Greater World, set in Australia in 1920 and Kurinji Flowers, set in India in the 1930s and 40s. She is a graduate of Manchester University where she read English Language and Literature.

After a career in international marketing, working on brands from nappies to tinned tuna and living in Paris, Milan, Brussels and Sydney, she ran her own consulting business for 15 years and now lives in West London. Co-founder of the popular website, Make it and Mend it, and co-author of the 2012 book of the same name, Letters From a Patchwork Quilt is her third novel.

When not writing and reading, Clare loves to splash about with watercolours and grabs any available opportunity to travel – sometimes under the guise of research.


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(Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book from the author and publishers in exchange for my objective review.)


  1. If the reader can cheer and mourn for the characters, the author has done a fantastic work then. Looking forward to read this one.

    1. I agree Shilpa...we read to 'move' ourselves out of our everyday world.

  2. You're right... this couple do have a lot of odds fighting completely against them - but you have to give it to them for remaining optimistic and still striving for that happiness!

    1. Exactly, Olivia-Savannah! There's nothing wrong with striving for more, but the happiest people find contentment in any situation.